Questions arise over Rensselaer mayor's 'clubhouse'
Shayla Colon is reporting for the Times Union that Rensselaer Mayor Michael Stammel has for years retained control of a building that used to house the Rensselaer Volunteer Ambulance Service. However, the space is frequently rented for private events, with little accountability for its business dealings and finances. Stammel said he is a member of the group's now inactive board, but refused to name any others members. He also confirmed that the nonprofit forfeited its certification last year, but continues to rent out the building at 901 Third Street for parties and gatherings. That ongoing use has raised questions about the squad's finances and the lack of publicly available business records. Records on file with the state attorney general's Charities Bureau also lack details of the squad's business dealings and Stammel is the only contact listed on the group's website. A nearby resident has dubbed the Third Street building's status as an ambulance-company-turned-party-venue an "open secret." The mayor said he has been on the board for 15 years and that the building remains the property of the ambulance squad board. After failing to identify the others involved, he said the board is "reorganizing" and "fluid." Stammel also claims to be the building’s caretaker. "Anybody who wants information out in the neighborhood, they know how to talk to me," he said. Chris Kilhullen, who lives nearby, said the rentals are "consistent" and that the building was "dead" before Stammel took office as mayor at the beginning of 2020. "He rents that place out," Kilhullen said, questioning where the funds go. "Maybe he's got a big stash of money there, who knows," he said. An anonymous, former ambulance squad volunteer said that in 2014, a couple of years after a fire occurred in the building, Stammel and the organization's treasurer locked everyone out. Rensselaer City Council President John DeFrancesco says Stammel treats the building like his clubhouse. "Somehow (it) ends up being he's one of the last survivors and it (the building) really should be sold and any money split amongst everyone, but he keeps it under his wing and uses it to his advantage," he said. Read the full story in the Times Union.